When I tell people I take ballet lessons, the most common question I am asked is "you really dance around in a tutu?" I suppose that the question is innocent enough.
There are a couple of misconceptions involved here, though.
First: No. No one is wearing a tutu. Tutus are costumes made to show off your fancy footwork. Even professionals take class in tights, leotards, and not much else. If it's cold I wear my little knee warmers. If I am on my period (TMI? Suck it up) I have some floaty georgette booty shorts (okay, "tap pants") that I made, but a lot of gals wear those little chiffon wrap skirts. The less you wear the better your teacher can see what you are doing and correct your mistakes. The tights are pink or black, the leotard is anything that doesn't ride up your butt too much. The leg warmers and sweaters are usually ancient and full of holes. It's part of the look (also, dancers are famously BROKE.)
Second: Ballet class, especially beginning ballet class but even top-level stuff, involves very little dancing. Mostly it's exercises that strengthen your feet, legs, back, etc. You do a whole lot of lifting parts of yourself and supporting your body weight in ways you don't in regular life. You work on your posture and on pulling up through the top of your head to keep your muscles engaged and your weight off your legs (you know how kids weigh twice as much when they are sleeping? That is because dead weight feels a whole lot heavier than active weight). You do lots of combinations of movements in time to music so that you will develop some sense of musicality and learn to do multiple things with your body at once. It's like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. You work on that sort of thing by doing some combination of steps with your feet while doing some other combination of movements with your arms. IT'S HARD. But the whole idea is that once you are strong enough and have the muscle memory in place and your coordination is good enough... then they can give you some crazy choreography and you can dance without thinking about "oh man, are my legs turned out enough? is my back straight enough? are my arms supposed to be pointing down when I do this thing or up or what?"
So, no. No pretty princesses in tutus. I will Discuss Tutus later, though, because that is at least a whole post on it's own for a clothing construction nerd like me!